If AMERICAblog, and other alternative media, are going to survive we need your help sharing our stories on social media.
I’d been asked by some readers recently why we ask folks to share our stories via services like Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, etc. Why did it matter, they asked me – how does it actually help AMERICAblog?
In a nutshell:
1. When you share our articles on social media, you help bring more people to our site, which lets us make more money on our advertising, and since this is my full-time job, you make it possible for me to keep AMERICAblog online.
2. People aren’t sharing our content nearly as much as you think they are, so your help matters.
I’ve always been amazed by sites that publish a story and suddenly 1,000 people are liking their story on Facebook, sharing it on Twitter, and up-voting it on Reddit. I suspect some sites hire people to promote their content, while others are simpler larger than us, so per se more people are submitting content to social media. At AMERICAblog, we never wanted to hire someone to promote our stuff. It’s dishonest, and it’s also a good way to get those services to block your content – something we could never afford.
A lot of readers have moved to social media for their news
In the past, all of our sites could rely on a steady base of visitors to bring us our traffic, and our revenue. But that started changing a good four years ago or so. We started noticing more and more traffic coming in waves, from posts that went viral, rather than being traffic that came to the site every day as loyal readers. A friend explained to me that the “problem” was social media. People were simply perusing sites like Facebook and Reddit, and services like Twitter, for their news and information, rather than going to the content-producers (news sites) directly.
And I quickly noticed I was doing the same. I’m not sure there’s any news site, or blog, that I read every day. I do read Twitter, non-stop, to get my news updates and story ideas. I also check out Facebook, to see if there’s anything interesting there. And while I have a list of Web sites that I try to visit regularly to look for interesting stories, I don’t visit them religiously. The only place I go religiously is Twitter and Facebook, and to a lesser degree, Reddit.
Why does this matter? Because rather than visiting the same site every day to browse stories, I now browse those stories on Twitter or Facebook, where the content producers don’t get ad revenue. When I finally find a story title or summary that sounds interesting, I click on the link and visit the original site – that’s when the site earns income on their story (and they get more money when you click on their ads – it’s complicated, but that’s in essence true).
And this increasing trend of visitors to “drive-by” rather than “regularly visit” is why you see more and more sites, mainstream media included, using fancy tricks in their headlines to woo you in (“You won’t believe what Donald Trump said about Mrs. Obama!”), and pursuing stories that you might not think interesting (the plane, or Justin Bieber’s latest whatever). Those headlines, and those stories, bring them more traffic. And in an age when media is still on financial life support, they need all the traffic they can get.
Facebook, Google and Reddit changing the rules
Another problem a lot of sits face is the ever-changing rules at places like Facebook, Google and Reddit.
Facebook, the thinking goes, is always looking for ways to make money (as we all are), so they tweak their settings every few months in a way that tends to shut off traffic to sites that have managed to become popular with Facebook users. One such change at Facebook happened a few months ago, and it affected a lot of sites.
Now, why would Facebook do this? Again, the thinking goes, they do it to make money. If you can’t get your content shared on Facebook for free, then maybe you’ll pay Facebook to share your content. The problem with that is that some of us already were paying Facebook to help promote our content, and it worked to a degree, until Facebook changed the rules a few months ago, so now even paying to promote your content doesn’t generate readership. So I stopped paying.
As for Google, Lord only knows how they tweak their algorithms, but when they do, and traffic suddenly changes, it can be a problem.
Finally, there’s Reddit. Reddit is an interesting site, and community, that can be somewhat prickly about the content they permit. Reddit faced some controversy over a recent decision by their moderators to ban a whole slew of legitimate news sites that they deem “spam.” Now, Reddit’s definition of “spam” is somewhat vague. For example, there seems to be a bias among some on Reddit that anything from a “blog” is “blogspam.” Blogspam is defined as simply taking a story published elsewhere and rewriting it. And while that might have been true ten years ago, for some blogs, it’s not true today, and not for the most influential sites, and not for many others. There is a lot of great original analysis, and original reporting, that comes from “blogs.”
The financial climate is still horrible for media
And that brings us to the final reason that it is so important for you to share content you like on social media: the economy.
As I’ve written before, the financial crisis of 2008 destroyed the economy for a lot of people and industries, including media. We at AMERICAblog had our best year EVER in 2008. It finally permitted me to save enough to buy my first home (a one-bedroom condo) in a horrifically expensive town, DC. And then, bam. The floor fell out. In 2009, I made 25% of what I’d made in 2008. Today, I’m making around 45% of what I did in 2008. Things are “better,” but they’re not better. And it didn’t help that one of our major progressive ad networks declared bankruptcy last year, reconstituted under a new name, and took a good $12,000+ of our hard-earned cash with them.
And it’s not just about me. It’s no longer clear how media makes a profit online, or off. But in the meantime, while we all scratch our heads trying to figure out if any of this is any longer financially viable, we need your help making money the only way we know how – via advertising. And the way we earn that income is by getting visitors to our site via sharing on social media.
So, what am I asking you to do?
1. Follow me, and “like” AMERICAblog and AMERICAblog Gay on Facebook. Doing this might help our content show up more readily in your Facebook feed.
2. Follow us on Twitter, and when you see stories you like, retweet them to your friends:
3. If you think a particular post is worthy, SHARE IT on social media services like Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr, Pinterest and more.
You can find the share buttons for that particular post/story at the top of the post, under the headline, and at the bottom of the post. (The Facebook “like” button under the post headline also permits you to “share” the story on Facebook. I’ve found on some sites, clicking these buttons doesn’t do anything – if that happens, try right-clicking them and opening the link in another page.)
4. Don’t assume that our content is being shared by someone else.
Every time you share a story it helps bring more traffic to that site. (And don’t just share every story – only share stories that you think are worthy of sharing, that you honestly think your friends should read.)
So keep this in mind, not just when you’re looking at stories on AMERICAblog, but when you visit any Web site you like, particularly progressive media. We’re all in the same boat, and we need your help. Or a lot of may not be here for the long-haul.
Thanks so much, as always. JOHN
PS And don’t forget to email me interesting articles and news tips that you think might make a good story. That includes stories you see on other sites, other blogs, that you think we might want to cover, or mention, in our posts. I don’t get to visit nearly enough sites out there, so don’t assume I’ve seen a story – I probably haven’t. Our contact email is [email protected]